At the November meeting for the Professional Consultants Association of Central New York, the topic was using technology to schedule and plan one’s time by using things such as Microsoft Outlook. That’s because it’s a program that allows not only email but the ability to do all sorts of planning, note taking, creating folders and then colorize things so that you can identify priorities by sight quickly. Of course not everyone uses Outlook, which is why process is more important than whatever tool one uses.

One of the things that a lot of us took away from that meeting is that sometimes the art of planning can be overwhelming. While some people thrive at planning their days, like me, some people either feel constrained by that process or get to the point where they need to schedule time to schedule time.

In essence, those people who schedule things the best understand three principles. One, keep it simple; two, flexibility is your friend; three, tweak your system so it fits your personality, not someone else’s.

Truthfully, this is what consultants are supposed to do. If we go into a client’s company and start offering complicated or pricey options and that’s all we have, we’re not going to make much money or be a benefit to anyone. Clients want things fixed, and unless the mess requires drastic changes, they want things done quickly and easily. Almost no one wants a consultant to come in and change up the entire business, though sometimes that’s what’s needed.

The same goes for scheduling and planning time. For most people, everything can be done in the concept of 5’s.

For instance, if you need to have categories of things, only have 5 categories, maybe a 6th called “miscellaneous”. If we go by the Pareto Principle then the overwhelming majority of what you need to deal with should fall into those 5 categories, maybe even fewer.

When you’re planning your day, always build in 5 minutes between each event as a minimum. It might take you some of those minutes to complete your last task or to get to the next one, or you might just need to go to the bathroom; none of us is a machine. Planning breaks is also a smart idea if you’re one of those workaholics that doesn’t know how to take care of your health by making sure you eat or rest your mind periodically throughout the day.

Planning and scheduling really is the smartest thing for all consultants to do. How you do it should make your life easier and help you keep things straight. If you need to write a lot of notes to remember things, do it. If you can remember things by only writing a few words down as reminder points, then do that. Don’t fret over perfection; schedules are meant to help, not disturb your mind.

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